School leaders have warned the exams watchdog against using “hearsay and rumour” in its bid to identify the methods being used by schools to “maximise” examination results.
Ofqual’s chief regulator Glenys Stacey has invited teachers to share their views and experiences in a confidential online survey.
The GCSE and A level system is currently in the midst of major reform, with new-look qualifications due to be rolled out from 2015 onwards. There have also been significant changes to examinations, including the move to terminal assessment in many subjects.
The exams regulator now wants to identify the “pressures” which the new qualifications will face.
Speaking at a meeting of the Westminster Education Forum last week, Ms Stacey said she wants to hear about the strategies and activities schools use to increase results.
She said: “Qualifications come under a range of pressures and we want to ensure that the new qualifications, developed as part of the reform programme, can withstand these pressures while providing a level playing field for all students.
“We hear increasingly from a range of sources across the school system that certain approaches are used which create unfair advantages for some students. These sources are diverse – online forums, head teacher panels and the like.
“We see this work as important in moving from anecdote to a firmer evidence base, to allow us and the wider education community to tackle these difficult issues and better manage pressure points in the system so that qualification standards are protected.
“We want teachers to be open and honest with us. After all, this is a unique opportunity to tell us what’s going on in schools and what they think about it.”
The online survey will ask teachers their views on “activities” that they may have experienced first-hand. Ofqual stresses that many of these approaches “may not break any rules” but the watchdog is concerned that may “undermine qualification standards”.
However, the move has concerned Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
He said: “Enabling pupils to pass exams is one of the main aims of our education system. Not doing everything a school could to prepare students effectively would be a dereliction of duty.
“While we take very seriously our responsibility to work closely with Ofqual to maintain standards of professional practice, we have serious concerns about the idea of treating anonymous and anecdotal feedback as ‘evidence’.
“Hearsay and rumour have no place in evidence-informed policy. Explicit procedures to report malpractice are already in place and should be used where there is cause for concern.”
The online survey is open now and runs until July 18. To access the survey, visit http://bit.ly/1pVgxUt